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story.lead_photo.caption Restoration specialist Joseph Jisa points out an exposed section of the soffit that needs repairing Saturday during a volunteer rehab session at the Jefferson City National Cemetery old Caretaker's Cottage. The Historic City of Jefferson and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs are working to rehabilitate the cottage to be leased by the HCJ for the next five years. Photo by Sally Ince / News Tribune.

Work is progressing to restore a Jefferson City landmark that preservationists plan to open once again to the public later this year.

After two years of negotiations, in June 2018, the Historic City of Jefferson became the first private entity to partner with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to rehabilitate the Jefferson City National Cemetery's old Caretaker's Cottage on East McCarty Street.

Volunteers from the JCMO Rehabbers group held a work session Saturday painting and hanging sheet rock at the cottage.

HCJ plans to rehabilitate the building into office space for nonprofit organizations.

Joseph Jisa is a student at the American College of Building Arts in Charleston, South Carolina, as well as a military veteran who served in Afghanistan and Iraq. This summer, he's been on an internship and working for the HCJ, with the cottage being his focus.

"We had the tornado hit on May 22 — and that took a lot of momentum away from the work on the cottage — but we have been able to pick things up," Jisa said. "We've got a lot done on the second floor, but most of the work now is on the main floor where we are trying to rehab the home to make it usable, but with a historical eye."

HCJ will lease the building from the VA for five years, with options for five one-year extensions. VA staff at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis County previously maintained the building and leased the structure to local nonprofit groups.

The 149-year-old cottage has been vacant for several years after lightning struck nearby and damaged the building,

Years of wear and tear show on the inside of the Caretaker's Cottage, with paint peeling and wooden panels in the middle of a room holding up parts of the ceiling.

"We found more stuff than we were hoping to have to deal with," Jisa said. "There's brick work that's kind of expensive because it's older, and we've had to make repairs to the exterior trim, instead of just painting it."

The house was constructed in 1870 and is one of few Second Empire-style homes in the community. It also has a slate-covered mansard roof, similar to the Missouri Governor's Mansion. Jisa said approximately 30 such homes were built at national cemetery's across the country, with the same design as the home here in Jefferson City.

HCJ's board approved $13,000 for renovations, which includes removing the dropped ceilings and parts of the carpet and wall paneling, repairing the walls, and refinishing and replacing flooring. Exterior work includes restoring the front porch and repairing the roof and gutters.

The VA also installed a heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system, along with repairing some of the plumbing.

HCJ officials are hoping to have a grand opening in the first part of September.

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